Recently, as the medical industry became more used to the idea of a prescriptive lifestyle, using prescriptions as a way to solve nearly any problem. From medical problems and illnesses, to quick fixes, this type of "problem diagnosis to prescriptive solution" process can be seen in any practice. It has become very much a "give and take", question and answer world.
There are now medications for all kinds of things – illnesses, vitamins, emotional boosters (sad, happy, relaxed), aids to sleep or focus, etc. There are also guide books + how to's, question to answers on platforms like Google. There's fixes for staying awake or focusing, self-control on social media, and solutions to change even who you are and your confidence.
Efficiency + Levels of Fixes
We can see it in the beauty industry, where we solve the skin and hair problems with cover up, foundation and color correctors, ointments and pills. We can see it in the pharmaceutical industry, the health and fitness industry, where efficiency is being prioritized instead of a complete, slow, processed solution. At this point, many of the products sold are sold half for its purpose and half for its efficiency.
There are then different levels of "fixes" and efficiencies, from temporary, longer lasting, to permanent. This could range from getting glasses and contacts, to using corrective lens to stop vision deterioration, to Lasik surgery. This is still different from a complete solution, which may have involved prevention, by better preserving vision prior to needing any of the fixes.
If this is a new trend, how would the world be better designed to suit people's needs for this type of efficiency?
There are still many problems individuals face on the daily basis, from being alone and feeling lonely, to needing more self control (news feed eradicators), or needing to feel a certain way at a certain time (ex. confidence at an interview).
If we continue this type of lifestyle, where everything becomes a problem with a prescription (drug or not), how far can that go?
This would lead to another series of questions and considerations:
- At what point, do these prescriptions or "medications" become crutches?
- How useful are these prescriptions?
- Do they become harmful and prevent more natural ways of getting to the desired end result?
- What are the pros and cons to quick fixes and what are the long term effects?
- Do people become addicted to the "efficiency"?
- What other consequences will there be?
- How will the future be shaped in parallel to this new type of reality?
"What consequences might there be, from the new thing or way of acting? What effects could it have on society more widely? Will some people ‘opt out’ of it? Will some people rebel against it? Are there technological or environmental ‘limits’ we might reach?"
What if everything becomes a problem you can fix?
Parameters of a Prescription + Audience
To what extent, big or small, would the problems to be solved become? For example, what if someone didn't feel comfortable being alone, would that be considered something to be fixed?
Would the prescriptions be solely focused on drugs or all chemical or biologically based solution?
How will these drugs affect a younger generation -- physically and mentally? Will these drugs be used for the elderly, the middle aged generation? In those cases, there will have to be laws and politics affecting this and related to this, like birth control, planned parenthood, insurance.
Research + Development
Would larger bio-chemical research firms be developing these? Would there then be a black market for those who do not have access to a "prescription"? Would these drugs be related to hormones, almost similar to birth control regulating bodily functions to control "undesired" symptoms, like anger, sadness, skin problems, confidence, happiness, etc. Would the drugs affect the brain to release more of certain chemicals?
There may also be different levels and types of prescriptions or solutions then -- chemical vs. hormonal; short term, long term, permanent. There may also be alternatives focused on maintaining the natural bodily functions.
Pricing + Quality
Would more "permanent" fixes be more expensive? For example, bandaids are the cheaper fix to a healing ointment compared to vitamins that increase skin health and strength, so a person wouldn't even need a bandaid because it'll be more difficult to get a cut? Would this push companies to try to develop the best quality solution, which can become a more natural or unnatural way of solving things. For example, natural vitamins for your skin health versus plastic surgery.
Side Effects of Drugs
There may be withdrawal symptoms, feelings of missing the "crutch." There could also be other side effects that need more drugs to fix.
Hacking the System
There's an Open Source Estrogen project that's related, where housewives extract estrogen from chicken eggs in their kitchen. How would people "hack" these new drugs or start using it in different ways? For example, Adderall is prescribed for people with ADHD, but many people use it to increase focus or stay awake in other contexts.
Increased Awareness on Actual Illnesses
Will this help bring attention to illnesses that aren't as widespread? For example, even though mental health awareness and PTSD is becoming more prevalent, there are still a lot of people who don't associate it as an illness. Would considering this an illness (since everything becomes "an illness") give it more validity in the medical field and in society?
Effects on Psychology
Would people become pressured to fix all of their "problems" or things they don't feel comfortable with? This might affect confidence, methods of self-validation, and the ability to form relationships on personal values and interests. How will these drugs affect self-esteem, the development of certain personality traits, and more defining factors of a personal identity?
As makeup becomes a quick fix to solve for blemishes or self confidence, would people rely on these pills too much and become addicted to efficiency? Would their patience decrease? Will their memory decrease?
How will this affect the environment? There would be an increase of chemicals from the drugs that would then be carried into the water system, which would greatly affect the ecosystem, crops, animals, food sources, etc. Would there be a new group of environmental advocates that protest against this "new habit"?
Biological limits for what our bodies can handle. Technology use and ability may be increased to account for the biological limits of the body. This may end up in a strange territory.
"What other things are going on in this world? What parallel developments, related or unrelated, go along with the phenomenon you’re examining? What are the big issues in this world, the areas of public debate?"
Defining an Illness
Would "illnesses" or "being sick" be self defined or prescribed? Some people take "sick" days as a mental break at work, but now that everything is a similar problem, would there be a necessary confirmation or prescription needed, aka a "sick note"? What would be considered normal? Would there be contradictory suggestions? Are there "trending problems"?
Who would then define an "illness"? This would affect the medical industry — perhaps a new type of general practitioners who specialize in the lesser illnesses?
Social Structure + Status Change
People opting in this lesser illness concept could be seen as extremists versus people opting out of this concept be seen as rebels or hippies, depending on how the society sees it. Doctors could then become even more elite, as they would be in control of ways to solve every problem in a person's life, and the lines between doctors even more separated — traditional medical doctors versus everyday problem doctors.
Would the society become very homogenous, as everything out of the ordinary be considered a "problem" that should be fixed? What would become of the people who stand out? For example, if some people don't like the taste of pasta when everyone else does, will they change their taste buds to be less sensitive towards it?
Would social class also play into this? As the pharmaceutical and related industries are still in a capitalist material based society, how affordable can this become? The pills can either simply be a specialized treatment, or a widespread and common practice. If it's more widespread and common, then those who cannot afford it might form another social class. Would being different from the homogenous "normal" be associated with not only "different" and "strange", but also "poor" or "underprivileged"?
Economy + Governmental Programs
How would this change the economy? There would be new production jobs, factories, new types of drug stores and medical offices. This could mean new unions.
With the new types of social classes, would there be governmental programs to help with healthcare or health insurance? Or will there be stricter laws (and new types of lawyers) to control this specialized practice?
Role of the Designer
"What might the briefs be for designers, in this world? What skills are in demand? How does society treat designers? How do designers treat society? Are designers mainly dealing with side-effects?"
- Medical design: brand, promotion, product, bio-medical, technology, environmental design
- Designers working with doctors + biochemists to create new types of solutions
- Designers working for longer because they physically stay up longer
- New spaces for new habits and psychology of the people -- if they become more social, less social, will there be less unique spaces?
- Less need for commercial designers if people's interests become more streamlined